How to manage change processes communicatively

In the world of German football, there is currently much heated discussion about the ousting of three deserving world champions from the national team by the trainer in the course of a reorganisation. The former press officer of the German Football Association (DFB) recently criticised the fact that there was “no accompanying press conference”, and spoke of a “classic communication own goal”. Overall, it became clear that the expectations of experts, journalists and fans regarding the communication procedures of the national team trainer and of those responsible at the DFB for this change process are different.

Also for responsible actors in companies, managing change processes is a great challenge, for example in the course of strategic realignments or in the aftermath of acquisitions and financial transactions. Active and regular communication, both internal and external, helps to promote understanding and to convince all those affected and involved of the purposefulness and necessity. In this regard, it is also important to overcome transfer barriers:

1) Said does not mean heard

Comprehensible information on imminent or ongoing changes is necessary in order to obtain the attention of the relevant target groups. Define the objectives of your change process in good time. Analyse your target groups. Be active via several communication channels – online and offline. Check how you can reach as many addressees as possible.

2) Heard does not mean understood

Our perceptual behaviour has changed in the course of media developments. Messages are quickly lost if they are not formulated in a clear and memorable way, and are not adapted to the user behaviour of the target groups. In change processes, your messages must convey clarity to the addressees. Formulate messages actively. Repeat your core messages regularly. Avoid ambiguity in order to create understanding and prevent contradictions.

3) Understood does not mean agreed

In order to obtain the agreement of the target groups to the desired changes, it is necessary to be aware of their misgivings and objections. Therefore, initiate a dialogue with your target groups. Don’t hide away in your office and don’t rely only on purely information measures. Take part actively in a personal exchange of ideas with your target groups – across all levels in the hierarchy. Prepare yourself well for critical questions. Your presence and the dialogue will help you to gain acceptance.

4) Agreed does not mean applied

In order to anchor changes for the long term, it is necessary to ensure commitment in the behaviour of all. Set a good example and live the “new mentality”. Maintain your active dialogue with all involved so that they perceive the commitment and themselves become active. Also involve your colleagues from the management committees and make them assume responsibility. Document your communication activity and make it a long-term experience.

5) Applied does not mean retained

Necessary change processes are successful if they are effective for the long term. This means great effort on the part of all involved. Tell stories of success. Provide evidence of what has been achieved, and what was announced. In the course of your communication, show your respect and appreciation of the performance of those involved. Consistently demonstrate what is important to you and what you want to achieve. The more supporters you gain, the better. This will help you to make the next change process even better.

My skills for your success (selection):

  • 10 years heading the global department at international market and technology leaders
  • Over 1,000 projects to strengthen the company’s image internally and externally
  • Communication of large-scale projects: IPO, merger, acquistions, change of ownership, financial transactions as well as crisis, integration and change processes

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